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Friday, March 4, 2011

The land is mine

Reading: Leviticus 25:23-24
23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. 24 Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land." (Emphasis mine)

God commands the Israelites not to sell land permanently because it belongs to Him. This command forces them to live in a constant sense of being a tenant, a "foreigner" or "stranger" in their land. When something doesn't belong to us most of us feel a sense of responsibility to the owner to look after their belongings. When we rent a house we have to remain mindful that we can't make any major changes without asking the owner's permission and if we hurt or break something then the owner will have to pay for it to be fixed, and they might not give us our deposit back. We have to have a constant sense that we do not own the house in the back of our mind. 

This is even more evident when we borrow something from a friend or family member. If we borrow someone's shiny new car we feel compelled to drive even more carefully than usual to avoid damaging it, and we feel awful if we break something in a friend's house while we are visiting. Again, we are conscious of not owning these things. Our ownership of items gives us a sense of entitlement, the idea that if we damage the item that is ok, because it is only ourselves that we are hurting. 

I think we need to regain a sense of being strangers and foreigners in the land. God doesn't even think the renting metaphor is strong enough, no, He wants us to feel utterly un-entitled to the land that belongs to him. We are to remember that the damage we do to the earth is a failure in our responsibility and agreement with Him and might damage our relationship like hurting the belongings of a dear friend or family member. I think too many people have become comfortable enough with the world to feel like it is their home, they own it and they have the right to treat it however they want. God calls us to rethink this attitude to His planet. 

Next time you feel yourself forgetting that this is God's earth, try finding yourself some pictures in a table-book or movie (something like BBC's Planet Earth) that show the vast and spectacular nature of the world's wilderness, and indeed all of God's creation. It might help you remember that we are but strangers, grasses upon this earth that will soon wither and pass away. It is my hope that we might do something positive for God's creation while we visit.

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Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+